Large-wavelength instabilities in free-surface Hartmann flow at low magnetic Prandtl numbers

Giannakis, D.
Rosner, R.
Fischer, P.
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We study the linear stability of the flow of a viscous electrically conducting capillary fluid on a planar fixed plate in the presence of gravity and a uniform magnetic field. We first confirm that the Squire transformation for MHD is compatible with the stress and insulating boundary conditions at the free surface, but argue that unless the flow is driven at fixed Galilei and capillary numbers, the critical mode is not necessarily two-dimensional. We then investigate numerically how a flow-normal magnetic field, and the associated Hartmann steady state, affect the soft and hard instability modes of free surface flow, working in the low magnetic Prandtl number regime of laboratory fluids. Because it is a critical layer instability, the hard mode is found to exhibit similar behaviour to the even unstable mode in channel Hartmann flow, in terms of both the weak influence of Pm on its neutral stability curve, and the dependence of its critical Reynolds number Re_c on the Hartmann number Ha. In contrast, the structure of the soft mode's growth rate contours in the (Re, alpha) plane, where alpha is the wavenumber, differs markedly between problems with small, but nonzero, Pm, and their counterparts in the inductionless limit. As derived from large wavelength approximations, and confirmed numerically, the soft mode's critical Reynolds number grows exponentially with Ha in inductionless problems. However, when Pm is nonzero the Lorentz force originating from the steady state current leads to a modification of Re_c(Ha) to either a sublinearly increasing, or decreasing function of Ha, respectively for problems with insulating and conducting walls. In the former, we also observe pairs of Alfven waves, the upstream propagating wave undergoing an instability at large Alfven numbers.
Comment: 58 pages, 16 figures
Physics - Fluid Dynamics